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Wellness Wednesdays: Holistic Wellness for Newcomers

Nationalities Service Center

Wellness Wednesdays: Holistic Wellness for Newcomers Logo

Program Website
Year:
2018
State:
Pennsylvania
Winner Status:
Applicant
Program Type:
Program
Target Population:
Individuals who are Immigrants
Setting:
Community

Program Description

Holistic wellness focuses on the well-being of the whole person—mind, body, and spirit—and is founded in the belief that healing and optimal health can be achieved through balancing the interdependent parts of the whole person. NSC provides on-site wellness activities each Wednesday including acupuncture, massage, yoga, group therapy, movement therapy, service projects, art therapy, crochet circles, individual therapy and social gatherings. These activities address the many dimensions of wellness. Wellness Wednesday provides clients with practical tools for stress management and an opportunity to develop social connections. The joy-centered activities are designed to help decrease feelings of isolation, increase opportunities for socialization, and develop knowledge of mindfulness and self-care techniques. Wellness programming offers clients empowering activities to build self-confidence, promote healing, and create connection to self and others. With over 5,000 immigrants from more than 110 countries coming through our doors each year, we recognize that many have experienced trauma, hardship and loss and that opportunities for healing are critical to rebuilding a successful life in the US. Activities are available to all clients regardless of immigration status including refugees, asylees, survivors of torture, human trafficking and domestic violence as well as others who come through our doors including undocumented clients.

Creativity

Originally launched as a pilot of trauma-informed yoga classes at our site, Wellness Wednesday has evolved into a diverse array of weekly free activities that provide a gathering place for NSC clients to connect. Through strategic partnerships with pro-bono wellness providers including acupuncturists, massage therapists, art therapists and others, the program provides up to six diverse healing opportunities weekly. As new interests have arisen among client participants, we have diversified offerings including launching a “peaceful room,” which provides the opportunity for participants to take a few moments to draw, read, crochet, listen to music or meditate. In response to participant requests to contribute support to hurricane victims, we launched a bracelet making project, which to date has raised over $600 for hurricane relief efforts. Our model is client-driven with feedback and attendance data directing the program. Additionally, these healing opportunities are extended to staff in effort to provide accessible self-care.

Leadership

We believe that creating a culture of wellness is essential within any social service organization. Wellness Wednesday has fostered a culture of wellness within our agency. The last 30 minutes of each Wednesday session are open for staff to participate in activities such as acupuncture or massage. We also offer weekly staff yoga sessions. We recognized that both our clients and our staff encounter stress in their daily lives and can benefit a culture of wellness. NSC is committed to disseminating information of this program to other organizations by sharing research as well as its program implementation model. To date we have gathered both quantitative and qualitative data about changes in participants’ stress levels as well as their responses and feedback about the activities. NSC plans to create a training manual, in-person training and webinar on how to implement the programming in other organizations.

Sustainability

Wellness Wednesday has been implemented by the incredible generosity and giving spirit of a multitude of partners to which we are incredibly grateful. Our wellness practitioners including acupuncturists, yoga teachers, massage therapists, dance and movement therapists and others have primarily been entirely pro-bono, providing their services at no cost to NSC or our clients. A core group of practitioners has helped us to recruit additional providers including trainees and interns allowing them to develop their skills and provide a unique and highly valuable service to our clients. Other key costs have included program supplies, such as yoga mats, and client supports, primarily transportation assistance for clients. In order to make our services accessible, we offer transportation stipends who attend wellness activities as we recognize that these costs may be prohibitive for clients. As the program continues to develop and respond to clients needs, we hope to expand available support.

Replicability

The wellness activities we have selected represent the incredibly diverse backgrounds of our clients. We believe that any organization can implement similar wellness programming by engaging in dialogue with their participants about their interests and creating a designated time for engaging in these activities. This could be time for mindfulness walks, yoga, meditation or prayer or a multitude of other activities. These activities promote self-care while also fostering connection. Because NSC serves over 5,000 individuals from over 120 countries each year, we are also afforded a unique opportunity to introduce new wellness modalities to our clients. For example, many of our clients from Africa express limited exposure to yoga, but have engaged in our trauma-informed yoga classes and have developed their own gentle yoga practices. To us, this exchange of cultures of healing is part of what makes this program so unique and important.

Results/Outcomes

“I do yoga, acupuncture, and massage. I like all of them. We don’t have them in Africa. It helps me a lot. They are good for my whole body. The activities relax me. My stress goes down.” As this client relates, we see the impact of Wellness Wednesdays on many levels. On the individual level, we have seen reduced pain and reduced stress. On the community level, we have seen increased social connection and friendships developed. Centralizing wellness activities into a given day (Wednesday) has created a central point for clients and staff to engage with these activities. We have also seen a larger culture of wellness and healing develop within our organization. In 2018, we plan to launch a more comprehensive evaluation of program outcomes and client satisfaction. We also hope to launch an initiative to create a more trauma informed organization using our wellness orientation as a spring